Higher education’s accreditation system is holding it back, but escape hatches could mitigate some of the damage. 

Key points:

  • Higher education accreditation does not work because it asks accreditors to be consultants and regulators at the same time.
  • The two biggest problems with accreditation are that it does not provide adequate quality assurance, and it mandates a recipe that colleges must follow in terms of inputs and processes, rather than focusing on outputs and outcomes.
  • The recipe that accreditors require colleges to follow necessarily suppresses innovation in higher education.
  • While there is widespread dissatisfaction with accreditation, there is (justifiably) little consensus regarding potential replacements.
  • Escape hatches would allow programs with excellent learning or labor market outcomes to operate outside of the accreditation system, helping to unleash innovation in higher education.